The family of an Ohio man who suffered brain damage after being shot with a Taser weapon has reached a $2.25 million settlement with Perry Township officials and police.
Matthew Hook suffered brain damage after he was shot in the back with a Taser stun gun by Perry Township police officer Shawn Bean, while climbing a fence in August 2010. As a result of the shock, Hook fell from the fence and suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in permanent brain damage.
At the time of the incident, the 23 year-old Hook was fleeing from police officers after he was spotted driving a stolen van. He was unarmed and was shot with the Taser in the back, causing him to topple head first onto concrete.
According to allegations raised in the police brutality lawsuit, the officer used excessive force and was reckless in shooting him with a Taser weapon while he was on the fence. As a result of the head injury, Hook’s family indicates that he is emotionally unstable and will require constant medical monitoring.
The settlement was reached after the township failed to get the case dismissed on summary judgment, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals failed to overturn the decision, meaning that the case would go to trial. As a result, the township’s insurance carrier decided to negotiate a settlement and officials indicate that no township funds will go to Hook as a result of the settlement.
Under terms of hte agreement, the township has agreed to write up new Taser gun guidelines, which will address use of the stun guns on individuals who are in an elevated position. It will also call on officers to consider the danger the suspect represents to others before deciding what level of force is necessary.
In recent years, serious concerns have emerged about the widespread use of Taser guns by police forces throughout the United States. The stun guns are designed to incapacitate neuromuscular function by delivering a shock that uses Electro-Muscular Disruption tecnology.
Although Taser International, the manufacturer of the weapons, maintains that the shock delivered by the Taser is not life threatening, a number of deaths have occurred following use of the stun guns.
In 2008, Amnesty International released a report, calling for police departments throughout the United States to stop using Taser guns or to strictly limit their use to life-threatening situations. The human rights group linked 334 deaths to the use of Taser guns between 2001 and August 2009, noting that 90% of Taser deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to the officers.
In October 2011, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) released a report that estimated 15% of Taser shootings examined were clearly inappropriate, routinely being used on subjects who were unarmed and posed no physical threat. In addition, more than a third of the cases examined by the NYCLU involved multiple or prolonged shocks, and in 27% of the incidents police officers shot the Taser in the victim’s chest, which some reports suggest could increase the risk of fatal heart injuries.